Opinion: The farce of the ‘surgical strike’

Farah Jamil |

Opinion: The farce of the ‘surgical strike’

WEB DESK: Growing Indian hostility and belligerence has brought its relations with Pakistan to its lowest ebb for many years. The killing of Kashmiri youth Burhan Wani sparked the worst violence in Kashmir in six years.

Blaming the protests on Pakistan, Indian troops, mostly Hindu soldiers from Mizoram, Nagaland and other eastern states, killed more than 100 civilians in just over a month.

With guns firing pellets hundreds were blinded, the pellets were later replaced by “chilli powder” cartridges. The Indian government tried to divert both international and domestic opinion by staging on September 29 the Uri attack by four gunmen. A media-induced frenzy demanded the “avenging” of the Uri attack by a “surgical strike”.

India’s Director General of Military Operations (DGMO), Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh (who had earlier been embarrassed when the Indian media led by Indian Express refuted his “incontrovertible” evidence about Pakistani markings on the weapons and amino used during the Uri attack), cited “very credible and specific information” located militants in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir planning attacks on Indian-controlled Kashmir and “in various other metros in our country”. Indian media quoted sources that Indian commandos entered three kilometres across the Line of Control (LoC) to conduct the ‘surgical strikes’ against alleged militant launch pads, killing dozens of terrorists in the process.

Over 40 domestic and foreign journalists taken to the two locations mixed freely with the local population. Except for firing along the LoC no such violent incident took place. The Indian claims were rejected outright by Pakistan. “The notion of surgical strike linked to alleged terrorists bases was a RAW-created illusion deliberately generated by Indians to create false perceptions among the international community. The Indian quest to create media hype by re-branding cross-border fire as “surgical strikes” is absolute fabrication”. Conducting such operations in a highly militarised area like Azad Kashmir would be near impossible without detection. Pakistan has made it clear that if there is indeed a surgical strike on Pakistani soil, “the same will be strongly responded.”

The Indian media had started mooting the idea of a “surgical strike” immediately after the Uri incident. The “strategy” of retaliation suggested by a media had direction from officialdom. This whole drama was a “false-flag” operation initiated by India’s RAW to pacify India’s population baying for blood after the killing of 18 soldiers in Uri by alleged militants Uri was a convenient “casus belli” for the Indians to start beating war drums to divert increasing world attention away from atrocities on Kashmiris.

The LoC violation was conducted clumsily, was ill-timed and very ineffective. This falsehood was exposed by one of India’s own Ministers, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting (someone who has served in the Armed Forces) who said the surgical strikes across the LoC did not involve any aerial action, thus rejecting the Indian Army’s inference that Indian Commanders were either heli-lifted or para-dropped inside Pakistani territory. Rathore said, “the Indian Army crossed the LoC ‘on the ground’ for carrying out ‘pre-emptive strikes'”. That is not like crossing the international border.”

This is not the first time that claims made by the Indian Army to besmirch Pakistan have blown up in their faces. After the Uri incident, the Indian Express challenged the narrative being aired by the Indian Army. An embarrassed DGMO had to backtrack on his claims altogether. A furious Ministry of Defence directed media houses to get their stories pre-verified before publishing them, in essence akin to gagging and controlling what the Indians like to boast is an independent media.

It was not at all surprising that the Indian army was unable to provide either insight or detail about the conduct of the “surgical strike”, much of the details came through the jingoistic anti-Pakistani media. Full of holes and there is sufficient reason to doubt the official Indian version as to its veracity. The Indian fabrication was further exposed when Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, told reporters that the UN Mission tasked with monitoring the LoC “has not directly observed” any firing along the LoC related to the latest incident.

What must be of some concern to Pakistan is the perplexing silence from the rest of the world in failing to even condemn India’s brash confession of naked violation of another nation’s sovereignty. With such apathy by the world community, Pakistan will have to not only take all effective steps for a “quid pro quo” to protect its sovereignty and deter aggression. Rhetoric from the Indian side has become that much more aggressive and is dangerous, while hostilities are taking place all along the LoC, what will stop this escalation from enveloping the international border?

India has on the diplomatic front successfully manipulated the indefinite postponement of the Saarc Summit in Islamabad in November 2016 by withdrawing from the Summit. Three of the smaller members also subsequently pulled out having little choice but to follow India’s bidding. With four of the eight SAARC six members refusing to attend, Sri Lanka also announced its inability to attend saying the prevailing environment was not conducive to holding the Summit. Hawkish elements in the Modi cabinet have now suggested abandoning the “Indus Waters Treaty” to deprive Pakistan of water.

This highly dangerous development would be an open act of war if implemented. Since the River Indus originates in China, which also has control over the River Brahmaputra that flows into India and Bangladesh providing sustenance to large parts of these countries, this could escalate into a “western war” having unimaginable consequences.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office very correctly pointed out that Narendra Modi is “trying to fool both the Indian people and international community into thinking Pakistan is the problem rather than focus on India’s continued occupation and brutal crackdown in Kashmir”. To quote a November 2015 article titled “Modi and his BJP government incite Hindu communalism”, BJP is “a highly unstable, toxic political formation, which is intertwined with the RSS and an entire network of virulent Hindu communalist organisations”.

The US has its own long term interests in supporting India and seems unwilling or unable to rein it in. While nobody in his right mind would want a war in South Asia and an escalation is not something that anybody wants, however if a genuine provocation is attempted Pakistan is capable and willing to respond with all the force it can muster. A major regional conflagration then may be in the offing.

(The writer is a defence and security analyst)

Source: Business Recorder